Greenwood Oklahoma also known as Black Wall Street was once the wealthiest Black enclave in the nation. What’s interesting about Black Wall Street is how African Americans came to be there. A lot of people hate reading about slavery, but isn’t that the birth of African American history? Our African history is an ancient and noble history, and I would argue that although our African American history is not ancient it is however just as noble. That fact that we are still standing in America is extraordinary almost unbelievable.
African Americans came to Oklahoma first as enslaved people of five Indian tribes: Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and the Seminoles. Native Americans were forced from their land by the government via the Trail of Tears between 1830 and 1850. After the Civil War under the Treaties of 1866 the enslaved were emancipated and some of them integrated into the tribes. The Dawes Act of 1887 authorized the government to divide tribal territories into allotments for individual Native Americans which included the Black members of their tribe. African American that left the plantation were struggling to find a safe place where they could not only exist but thrive. When the Reconstruction Era ended Blacks were truly at the mercy of local Whites. So, when word spread that Indian Territory was a safe place for Blacks, they came and established over 50 Black townships in Oklahoma.
Educated, skilled and unskilled Blacks left other southern states in search of their American Dream. Because America was a segregated country Black Wall Street was born. Black Wall Street was thirty-five square blocks of homes, newspaper offices, movie theaters, restaurants, groceries stores, churches, a hospital, and school. Blacks that worked outside of Black Wall Street did not spend their monies outside of Black Wall Street. Black dollars were spent in Black Wall Street thereby creating a thriving economy and creating wealth.
The race riots of May 30, 1921, ended what was known as the Black Wall Street a shining example of Black tenacity, ingenuity, and wealth. Greenwood Oklahoma was a place where African Americans were living proof that if you dreamed and worked hard you could make it in a country that 56 years earlier held African Americans in captivity.
I encourage you to read further about Black Wall Street, the horrific events that began May 30, 1921, and the cover-up that lasted 50 years. The visionaries that established that township is inspiring to me. The obstacles that we face today are many and deeply rooted in the psyche of both White and Black Americans, but I’m encouraged that we can and will find a Place of Our Own one day.